In the event of a natural disaster or emergency, Killeen relies heavily on education more than actual facilities.
The city operates no shelters, but has an emergency management office that plans for large-scale events, such as the Moore, Okla., tornado that ravaged the Oklahoma City suburb Monday.
Chad Berg, manager of Killeen’s Emergency Management Department, said he has fielded many questions about the presence of shelters in the area over the years, whether in response to shocking images from storms this week or when a tornado touched down in Killeen in 2007.
“The idea for us to provide shelters for 150,000 is unrealistic,” Berg said.
The rocky soil and relative scarcity of tornadoes in the area would make the expense of building underground shelters a waste. “It is wiser to have a public education program.”
The city performs occasional seminars and operates a website at www.readykilleen.org that provides many links to disaster preparedness.
The city also partnered with First Call, a system that will send out a blast of phone calls in the event of an emergency.
Sirens have been in place since shortly after the 2007 tornado that touched down near Twin Creek Drive. That tornado caused no fatalities, but damaged several homes and businesses.
The city council has opted to silently test the sirens in order to prevent breeding complacency, Berg said.
Neighboring cities also have comprehensive emergency action plans in place, said Dennis Baker, Bell County emergency management coordinator.
Baker said Bell County also uses the First Call emergency call system to notify residents online and by phone of emergency situations. People need to listen to their local radio and television stations for hazardous conditions, he added.
If a major tornado struck in Central Texas, Baker said the Red Cross has an agreement with school districts to open up temporary shelters, and city facilities in Temple also are used.
The Bell County Local Emergency Planning Committee helps coordinate, plan, prepare and train for disasters. Its website — www.bellcountylepc.org — includes what to do before an emergency happens by planning ahead and what a family disaster supply kit should include.
Deborah McKeon of FME News Service contributed to this report.